4 foundations of mindfulness
A detailed treatment of this subject, so important for the practice of Buddhist mental culture, is given in the 2 Satipaṭṭhāna Suttas (D. 22; M. 10), which at the start as well as the conclusion, proclaim the weighty words:
"The only way that leads to the attainment of purity, to the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, to the end of pain and grief, to the entering of the right path, and to the realization of Nibbāna is the 4 foundations of mindfulness."
After these introductory words, and upon the question which these 4 are, it is said that the monk dwells in contemplation of the body, the feelings, the mind, and the mind-objects, "ardent, clearly conscious and mindful, after putting away worldly greed and grief."
These 4 contemplations are in reality not to be taken as merely separate exercises, but on the contrary, at least in many cases, especially in the absorptions, as things inseparably associated with each other.
Thereby the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta forms an illustration of the way in which these 4 contemplations relating to the 5 groups of existence (khandha, q.v.) simultaneously come to be realized, and finally lead to insight into the impersonality of all existence.
mindfulness with regard to in-and-outbreathing (ānāpānasati , q.v.),
minding the 4 postures (iriyāpatha, q.v.),
mindfulness and clarity of consciousness (satisampajañña, q.v.),
reflection on the 32 parts of the body (s. kāyagatāsati and
asubha), analysis of the 4 physical elements (dhātuvavatthāna, q.v.),
cemetery meditations (sīvathikā q.v.).
(2) All feelings (vedanānupassanā) that arise in the meditator he clearly perceives, namely: agreeable and disagreeable feeling of body and mind, sensual and super-sensual feeling, indifferent feeling .
(3) He further clearly perceives and understands any state of consciousness or mind (cittānupassanā), whether it is greedy or not, hateful or not, deluded or not, cramped or distracted, developed or undeveloped, surpassable or unsurpassable, concentrated or unconcentrated, liberated or unliberated.
(4) Concerning the mind-objects (dhammānupassanā), he knows whether one of the five hindrances (nīvaraṇa, q.v.) is present in him or not, knows how it arises, how it is overcome, and how in future it does no more arise.
The 4 contemplations comprise several exercises, but the Satipaṭṭhāna should not therefore be thought of as a mere collection of meditation subjects, any one of which may be taken out and practiced alone.
Though most of the exercises appear also elsewhere in the Buddhist scriptures, in the context of this Sutta they are chiefly intended for the cultivation of mindfulness and insight, as indicated by the repetitive passage concluding each section of the Sutta (see below).